Wednesday, October 6, 2010
UConn's Wreh-Wilson becoming a force
By Brian Bennett
Quick: Name the only Connecticut player who's scored a touchdown in each of the last two games.
If you picked an offensive guy, you're out of luck. Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson hit the daily double on pick-sixes, returning an interception 46 yards for a score against Buffalo and taking one 44 yards to the house versus Vanderbilt.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson has taken two interceptions to the house the past two weeks.
"The first time I did it, I was awestruck," said Wreh-Wilson, who won Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday. "The second time, I was kind of like, 'I can't believe I did this two weeks in a row.' Once I got the ball in my hands, I felt like a running back. It felt great."
The first interception came after Buffalo's quarterback and receiver miscommunicated on a route as UConn's defense got pressure in the backfield. The ball came right to Wreh-Wilson. In the Vanderbilt game, Wreh-Wilson saw the receiver run the same curl flat route he had tried twice previously.
"I had played it erratically throughout the game," he said. "The third time, I played it right."
The redshirt sophomore is seeing and understanding a lot more things this year. He was thrown into the fire last season and wound up starting nine games. He didn't exactly get eased in, having to go up against receivers like Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard, Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, Rutgers' Tim Brown and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
"I saw that I could hold my own against them," he said. "I might get beat but it was more because of lapses I had and not using the right technique. So I just learned that I had to be more consistent."
Offseason shoulder surgery kept him out of spring practice, but Wreh-Wilson said that time was valuable because he got to see what the coaches wanted him to do on every play from the sidelines without having to worry about making a mistake.
"He works hard, he's smart and he understands what you're trying to teach him," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "He's a guy who's just going to continue to get better. The more he plays and the more he sees, the better he'll get."
The Connecticut secondary was a major concern coming into the season after the Huskies finished last in the Big East in passing defense a year ago. After some initial struggles, the defensive backfield seems to be putting things together despite starting sophomores at all four spots. UConn is allowing 176.6 passing yards per game, good for fourth in the league, and already has nine interceptions after recording only 12 all of last year.
"I feel like we've found a home right now," said Wreh-Wilson, a Pennsylvania native who chose UConn over several MAC suitors. "The four guys on the field are doing the best job. We're doing a good job as a defense of getting our hands on things and forcing turnovers."
The Huskies hope that is a strength Friday night against the league's worst passing offense in Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights may be forced to start true freshman Chas Dodd at quarterback because of Tom Savage's hand injury.
Despite the Scarlet Knights' struggles, Wreh-Wilson said it's still a challenge defending guys like Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison. And he knows he has to read his keys to avoid getting tricked when Sanu lines up in the Wildcat formation.
But it's Rutgers who needs to watch out for Wreh-Wilson. After all, he has only one fewer touchdown in the last three weeks than the Scarlet Knights do. Maybe he'll make it three weeks in a row.